The following is a discussion of where the Godzilla franchise could go now that a sequel has been announced. There are some minor spoilers for the reboot currently in theaters, so you might not want to read this until you’ve seen it.
It’s already been given the green light, and now it’s time to speculate what we’ll be seeing in a sequel to Godzilla. According to Deadline, the follow-up will be back at Warner Bros., the studio that put out this past weekend’s $93m-grossing blockbuster, even though now the film’s production company, Legendary Pictures, is working with Universal as its primary distributor. There’s also mention of an ongoing legal dispute, but that probably won’t be enough to keep Godzilla 2 from stomping into theaters in the summer of 2017.
The first question on most people’s minds is who or what will the King of the Monsters fight next. Apparently, Legendary only has the rights to the title character, so there’s a possibility that we won’t be seeing any of the other giant creatures (or robots or, thankfully, offspring) from the Toho franchise. Of course, Legendary could dole out more money for use of Mothra if that’s the case, but is that really want we want, a rehash of stuff seen before?
Godzilla vs. ?
Let’s look at Godzilla as a kind of superhero movie, given that the big man saves us in this new movie (and destroys a lot of a city and likely thousands of people in the process, not unlike Superman in Man of Steel). Fans will want for his most beloved foes to return for the new series, just as they’d want the Joker in another Batman reboot and Green Goblin in another Spider-Man series. Given recent trends, though, there’s a good chance a lot more than a single enemy would show up in Godzilla 2. There’d probably be Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and MechaGodzilla all in one movie.
Nobody wants that mess, because even though multiple villains can work, it’s typically seen as overkill. Yet I do wonder if, in spite of all the money made this weekend, certain criticisms will influence an “improvement” as far as how much monster action appears in the sequel. That could also take care of the problems had with the weak human element of the movie. Keep the actors, especially Aaron Taylor-Johnson if he returns, to very minimal involvement, so that the movie is mostly Godzilla wrestling other threats at different locations around the globe. Never mind plot, either; this would be merely a deliver system for enormous, fantastical wrestling matches.
What I describe above is the gist of Pacific Rim. Only this won’t be a flop, because of the name recognition Godzilla has, and which Guillermo Del Toro’s film lacked (that’s really the main reason Godzilla made almost as much in the U.S. in its opening weekend as Pacific Rim did in its whole run). Again, do we really want something we saw already? For many, yes, and in fact they want a mash-up of Godzilla and Pacific Rim, which could theoretically exist since both were made by Legendary and distributed by Warners. They’d have to figure out how the two worlds combine, though, particularly since the Del Toro’s movie takes place in the future and one in which there wasn’t already a kaiju battle in San Francisco already. Maybe Godzilla slips through a trans-dimensional portal at the bottom of the ocean and ends up in an alternate Earth?
Another crossover that’s been posed is Godzilla vs. King Kong — again, something we’ve seen already, albeit in really cheap fashion. Unfortunately for anyone seriously interested in that idea, Kong is Universal, so unless Legendary can strike a deal to go between its previous and new studio partner, it’s not something likely to happen. If it did, the story could be as incidental as it was in the 1962 film, which it should be noted was the most commercially successful of all Toho’s Godzilla movies. Of course it was. Just as fans got way too excited about the idea of Batman vs. Superman, back then (and possibly in the future) it was a big deal to see the two popular monsters pit against each other. Such an effort could really put Andy Serkis to work — he played Kong in the Peter Jackson movie and consulted on the new Godzilla, too.
Logical Plot Succession?
It’s hard to imagine what area a Godzilla movie could go in that hasn’t been done before. Gareth Edwards showed us with this new movie that there was new ground that could be covered with the monster, as well as a new way of looking at him and what he means, but I think that’s something that could only be done once. A second movie isn’t going to work with that same directorial perspective and that same theme of Godzilla and other monsters as global warming allegory (subbing in for the nuclear weapon threat of yesteryear) and that same sort of structure where the story builds, with Spielbergian restraint, to that worth-the-wait climax. Or, it’ll work, as a repeat, but it sure won’t blow us away like this one did.
There just aren’t a lot of fresh stories that are conceivable for a main character as large as Godzilla is. It’s not like you can give him a lot of different scenarios. Not that too many franchises work with entirely new premises, but they deal with small enough characters. There aren’t a lot of places to go with Godzilla because even as there’s world building, there’s already been to much world destroying. There’s literally limited ground. The one idea I see working is that Godzilla 2 reaches back to what the original Godzilla was (and what the 1998 version was), a movie about humans versus the creature, because there has to be a population of people who don’t want Godzilla to scuttle off scot-free even though he saved us. But that’s already a rumored premise behind the Man of Steel sequel (Batman vs. Superman, or whatever). Especially from the same studio, that sort of similarity can’t happen.
Embrace More of the Traditional Godzilla Silliness?
There’s only one way for Edwards to go if he stays on board: embrace the silliness. Just as the original Godzilla is great and everything after ranges from cheesy but enjoyable to just plain awful, perhaps that’s how the new series has to be, too. In that case, let’s just go with something really outrageous like Godzilla battling an Ultraman type. And he could do a bit of self-parody, as well. Bring in a new hero named “Cruise Neary” or “Dreyfuss Jones” or “Hanks Hammond” or some other combination of Spielberg actor and character, a la Taylor-Johnson’s “Ford Brody.” And he could bring in other Spielberg movie influences. They could actually introduce Godzilla’s son and a kid who befriends him, and they could fly a bike in front of the moon.
Preferably, though, Edwards should move on, take a hint from the Spielberg who rejected an offer to do Jaws 2 rather than the one who returned for the Jurassic Park sequel (and made his own kind of silly Godzilla movie in that third act of The Lost World). I don’t see Edwards wanting to do so much camp. After Monsters, he was the most perfect person to make a decent Hollywood Godzilla movie, and he did even better than that, but he is now probably the least perfect person to do its sequel. He should show us what else he’s perfectly suited for. As for who might be better for the next Godzilla, there are the directors of other recent cult monster movies, like The Host‘s Bong Joon-ho and Troll Hunter‘s Andre Ovredal, either of whom could inject a different kind of tone, maybe lighter and funnier yet still not corny.
And to get back to battle and crossover possibilities, how about Godzilla vs. Trolls?
Unlike most Hollywood tentpoles lately that have execs hopeful for franchise potential, Edwards’s Godzilla has little in the way of teasing let alone setting up for a sequel. Sure, Godzilla is resurrected at the end after we think he’s dead, but it’s not in a post-credits sequence. This Godzilla, like the original, is a very contained movie, both on the surface with the narrative and as far as what’s done with the subtext and in the clever ways the story is told. It has no need for a sequel, and no obvious direction for one to take. In a way, that seems to indicate that there shouldn’t be one, but in another way it seems to mean there’s a pretty wide range for imaginative options. Let’s just hope that the people planning the sequel also see the potential and bring the imagination rather than going with any number of easy, recycled and/or redundant choices.